|Chapter 18: The Plains of Ra|
They vanished into shadows at the foot of the hill. From the darkness came sounds of fighting--enraged snarls, the snap of jaws that missed their mark, bones cracking.
Then silence flooded back into the night. The apprehension of the company sharpened, for they could see nothing; the shadow reached almost to the crest of the hill where they stood.
Abruptly, they heard the sound of frantic running. It came directly toward them.
Prothall sprang forward. He raised his staff, and blue fire flared from its tip. The sudden light revealed a lone kresh with hatred in its eyes pelting at him.
Tuvor reached Prothall's side an instant before Foamfollower. But the Giant went ahead to meet the wolf's charge.
Then, Without warning, Cord Grace rose out of hiding squarely in front of the wolf. She executed her movement as smoothly as if she were dancing. As she stood, a swift jerk freed her rope. When the kresh sprang at her, she flipped a loop of the rope around its neck, and stepped neatly aside, turning as she did so to brace her feet. The force of the wolf's charge as it hit her noose broke its neck. The yank pulled her from her feet, but she rolled lightly to one side, keeping pressure on the rope, and came to her feet in a position to finish the kresh if it were still alive.
The Eoman met her performance with a low murmur of admiration. She glanced toward them and smiled diffidently in the blue light of Prothall's staff. Then she turned to greet the other Cords as they loped out of the shadow of the hill. They were uninjured. All the wolves were dead.
Lowering his staff, Prothall gave the Cords a Ramen bow. "Well done." he said. They bowed in acknowledgement.
When he extinguished his staff, red darkness returned to the hilltop. In the bloodlight, the riders began moving back to their horses. But Bannor stepped over to the dead wolf and pulled Grace's rope from around its neck. Holding the cord in a fighting grip, he stretched it taut.
"A good weapon," he said with his awkward inflectionlessness. "The Ramen did mighty work with it in the days when High Lord Kevin fought Corruption openly." Something in his tone reminded Covenant that the Bloodguard were lusty men who had gone unwived for more than two thousand years.
Then, on the spur of an obscure impulse, Bannor tightened his muscles, and the rope snapped. Shrugging slightly, he dropped the pieces on the dead kresh. His movement had the finality of a prophecy. Without a glance at Cord Grace, he left the hilltop to mount the Ranyhyn that had chosen him.